More than 13,600 students from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes have dropped out of their courses at central universities, the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management in the past five years, data tabled in Lok Sabha on Monday showed.

Students from the marginalised communities have spoken about facing caste-based discrimination on campuses amid rising suicides among them across higher educational institutions.

The data on Monday was provided by Subhas Sarkar, the minister of state for education, in response to a question by Bahujan Samaj Party MP Ritesh Pandey.

These withdrawals by students from their courses was mainly related to them having secured a seat in another department or institutions of their choice or because of personal reasons, Sarkar said in his response.

“In the higher education sector students have multiple options and they choose to migrate across institutions and from one course/programme to another in the same institution,” Sarkar said.

In central universities, 4,596 students from the Other Backward Classes, 2,424 Scheduled Caste students and 2,622 students from the Scheduled Tribes had dropped out in the past five years.

At the Indian Institutes of Technology, 2,066 students from the Other Backward Classes, 1,068 Scheduled Caste students and 408 students from the Scheduled Tribes had dropped out from their courses.

At the Indian Institutes of Management, 163 students from the Other Backward Classes, 188 Scheduled Caste students and 91 students from the Scheduled Tribes had dropped out during the period.

The Union minister said that the government was taking steps such as reduction in fees, establishment of more institutes, scholarships and priority access to national level scholarships to help students from marginalised sections to pursue higher education.

“For the welfare of SC/ST students the schemes like ‘waiver of tuition fees in IITs’, grant of national scholarships under Central Sector Scheme, scholarships in institutes etc are also there,” he added.

Sarkar said that to address problems faced by students from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, educational institutions “have set up mechanisms such as SC/ST students’ cells, Equal Opportunity Cell, Student Grievance Cell, Student Grievance Committee, Students Social Club, Liaison officers [and] Liaison Committee”.

The University Grants Commission has repeatedly issued instructions for promoting equity and fraternity among students, Sarkar said.

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